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Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Luddites had a point

The Luddites had a point. They were a group of artisans who wove cloth and socks in home industries in the early 1800's. When the mechanized loom was invented which could produce far more cloth with unskilled labour, the artisans formed the Luddite movement and went around destroying the mechanical looms. It became a hanging offence to do this and hence the name Luddite was apparently not the name of their leader although that was what the authorities assumed. Clearly it was not healthy to let the authorities find out who you were. Notably, they only destroyed looms of factories that undercut their prices. Factories that kept prices up to a level that allowed the artisans to compete were left alone. At present the word Luddite is applied perjoritively and rather unjustly to anyone who is against progress of any kind.

So now most of our cars are mainly constructed by robots, any plastic utensil is made by a huge machine with one operator and turns out thousands of items per hour and even the pieces of wooden furniture are to a large extent produced by machine and at the most, assembled by humans. On our road to utopia goods are produced more and more cheaply making them more affordable for us all but.....................

We still need money to buy them. Where do we get the money if none of us has jobs and for that matter, if we can get the money somehow, what are we going to be doing to the environment if everything is cheap. We will be (are) cutting down more and more trees to make furniture that we can all afford, mining more and more irreplacable minerals to produce cheap cars, extracting more oil to burn in our cars and to make our plastics, mining more rare earth metals for our electronics and so forth.

What has actually happened is that most of us have become employed in the service industries. Everyone is servicing everyone else while capital is making the big money. Services include everyone in the tourism business, politicians, writers, sex workers, most government employees soldiers and a raft of others. All of this still leaves a lot of people unemployed or under employeed. What do we do with them. We still have to get money into their hand somehow so that they can buy the products produced by capital and keep the whole system operating.

Some we put some on welfare. They get a dole-out from the state which has got it's money by taxing income from wage earners and from the earnings of capital. From, say, the sale of plastic collanders that have been produced by their tens of thousands from a single maching with a single operator.

Some we put in the army. This is especially valuable to a capital intensive country which can produce far more than they use and produce it very cheaply. The army produces nothing of value, burns up fuel, destroys vehicles and blows up munitions. It keeps the taxes flowing from the government into salaries and back into factories which can continue to produce as the government uses up their production. It necessitates mining more minerals, extracting more oil, carring out research and many more activities to keep the army operating. Of course an army has to have a war from time to time to use up all this excess production and make room for producing more. I have read an estimate that one in every ten dollars in America is earned providing something for the armed services. Imagine if there was no army airforce or navy. Unemployment in America would be huge. Of course an army has the slight dissadvantage that it kills people in far away countries who, with a complete lack of appreciation of the way the world works, object to being killed. They fight back and kill our good old boys both in their country and in ours which is most unfair. Of course this provides employment for a raft of other services such as undertakers, spys, security guards, and the manufacturers of a host of metal and explosive detectors. Full employment for all.

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